2020 Pierce County Alzheimer’s Conference

Many health conditions come on with clear symptoms such as pain, weight gain or loss, persistent cough, fever, discomfort, bleeding and the like. With Alzheimer’s, symptoms often come on gradually, almost imperceptibly. Often those symptoms can be hidden.

The annual Alzheimer’s Conference is usually held in-person. But the 2020 Pierce County Alzheimer’s Conference will be an online event because of COVID-19. The conference will provide useful information and practical skills for individuals and families dealing with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The conference will offer one-hour sessions at 1:00 p.m. on the four Thursdays of September. This event is free but advance registration is requested at: www.PierceCountyWA.gov/ALZ or by calling (253) 798-4600. Event link and phone numbers will be provided at registration.

“These are incredibly hard times for families dealing with Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” said Aaron Van Valkenburg, manager of Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources. “Now more than ever they all need support, information and resources. The Pierce County Alzheimer’s Conference has moved online to be safer and more accessible for the thousands of people in our community who manage with the disease day in and day out.”

The conference will be composed of four presentations:
Sept 3 – “Isolation During the Pandemic” with Marysusan Gibson-Iotte, Certified Dementia Educator
Sept 10 – “Dementia Friendly Activities” with Benjamin Surmi, Director of People and Culture at Koelsch Communities
Sept 17 – “How to Handle Challenging Behaviors” with Laura Vaillancourt, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Geriatric Mental Health Specialist
Sept 24 – “Legal and Financial Planning” with Meredith Grigg, attorney with the Northwest Justice Project and co-author of the “Dementia Legal Planning Toolkit,” and Bryana Cross Bean, local attorney with focus on estate planning, long-term care planning, elder law, and probate
Each presentation will be one-hour and include time for questions and answers. Recordings of the presentations as well as supplementary resources will be available at www.PierceCountyWA.gov/ALZ.

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. In addition, many more are living without knowing they have the disease. Supporting them are over 16 million family members and friends who provide unpaid care at home. Their care is valued at nearly $244 billion by the Alzheimer’s Association. Between 2000 and 2018 deaths from Alzheimer’s has increased 146% and is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia. Dementia is a loss of thinking, remembering, and reasoning skills that interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people. Other types of dementia include Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia. The information provided at the 2020 Pierce County Alzheimer’s Conference will be appropriate to all forms of dementia as well as Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – in addition to conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, and developmental disabilities – can cause cognitive impairment. A few commons signs of cognitive impairment include: memory loss; frequently asking the same question or repeating the same story over and over; not recognizing familiar people and places; having trouble exercising judgment, such as knowing what to do in an emergency; changes in mood or behavior; vision problems; and difficulty planning and carrying out tasks, such as following a recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.

Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Researchers do not yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease in most people. However, they continue to study a complex series of age-related brain changes, along with genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors to better understand the disease.

Just because a family member has Alzheimer’s disease does not mean that others in the family will get it, too. Genetic factors can make people more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, but there is no guarantee someone will get it.

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Several drugs have been approved to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and certain medicines and other approaches can help control behavioral symptoms. Scientists continue to develop and test possible new treatments.

The 2020 Pierce County Alzheimer’s Conference is sponsored Pierce County Aging & Disability Resources in collaboration with the Health Care Providers Council of Pierce County, a local non-profit organization. For more information about the conference call the Aging & Disability Resource Center at (253) 798-4600 or (800) 562-0332.

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